Weekly Wrap-Up : DICKTATORSHIP


Hello, the internet.

I have something to confess. I sat at my keyboard two nights ago, with a very large whisky in my hand, and tried to write about what I had witnessed in Parliament.

I try, in everything I do, to be considerate, often to a fault. I always try to see the opposing side in what I argue, and to temper my own beliefs by that principle. Call it a lack of conviction, call it a misguided attempt to see the good in everything, I don’t care. I simply don’t believe that anyone can have a viewpoint, based on emotion alone, that supersedes someone else’s.

I appreciate that to those who don’t know me will also read the following sentence and be tempted to think, “What a liberal, airy-fairy snowflake.”

But when I tried to write an article on Wednesday night, I found myself staring at my computer screen and being so uncontrollably angry that I couldn’t even write anything.

I am invested, heavily, in the political times we live in. I have always followed politics with huge interest, because I believe that politics itself is, at its core, a supranational examination of the psychology of the human race. There is so much data that politics gives us about how people feel about the society they live in – and this is fascinating to me.

But that is not what the effect of politics should be. Politics, and government, should be about a group of elected people, in a democracy, debating idealogical viewpoints in a considered, fair manner, and to come up with a solution that protects the most vulnerable in our society and is fair for everyone else.

Nothing in the above has happened over the last two days. It has been, and I say this without hesitation or fear of hyperbole, utterly chilling.

Make no mistake, we live in dangerous times. Let’s file through this wrap-up and have a long, hard look at ourselves.

Links, as ever, in the days of the week.


MONDAY

Before this week’s Supreme Court ruling, Johnson had yet another disaster on his hands. The Sunday Times alleged that he had personally intervened to help the business of a young, attractive American business-owner while he was Mayor of London.

He did so by providing grants generated by public funds (our taxes) to assist her companies, and also personally intervened to allow her access to international trade missions.

We can only speculate about their relationship beyond this, but the businesswoman in question had a stripping-pole in the living room of her Shoreditch flat, which Boris Johnson has been reported to frequent.

Given that the man is a renowned, serial womaniser, I leave it you, enlightened reader, to draw your own conclusions.

Isn’t it hilarious that we live in a country where our leader using our tax-money to bang an ex-model-turned-businesswoman isn’t the most controversial story of the week?

No.

It’s fucking not.


TUESDAY

The big one.

Look, read the blog in the link above if you want the full details of what happened on Tuesday, but what happened after is now more important.

Let’s consider the basic facts of the Supreme Court’s ruling:

  1. Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue Parliament was unconstitutional;
  2. This is because he tried to deny Parliament its role as a legitimate scrutiniser of the government;
  3. While not a direct part of the ruling, the inherent implication of it dictates that Johnson must have lied to the Queen in order to enact it.

So what would you do, having been found in contempt of our ancient system of laws? How would you feel, having been told by the finest legal minds of our country that you were acting against the very laws that define the fabric of our society?


WEDNESDAY

Yep, that’s right. You’d be an amoral, narcissistic, patronising liar.

Johnson had every chance to use this opportunity to back off. He could have started to form a consensus across Parliament to vote for a new, negotiated deal, which is currently his only way for us to leave on October 31st, as per his promise.

Instead, he elected to send his Attorney-General, Sir Geoffrey Cox, out to wax lyrical (in an admittedly gorgeous baritone sonority) about this “Dead Parliament.” Then, when he himself made a statement to House of Commons, his lack of contrition was not, despite appearances, deranged.

It was deliberate.

He undermined the status of the top judges of the land. So we are clear, they did not overstep their boundaries : we live in a constitutional democracy, and the role of the judiciary is to prevent executives like his from becoming dictatorships.

Again, this sounds hyperbolic, but it is not – this government cares so little for the views of the democratically-elected members that it would rather see them silenced than face proper scrutiny.

He flipped a huge finger to those judges, and then made one of the most abhorrent errors of judgement I have ever seen, politically or not.

Jo Cox, so we are abundantly clear, was pro-EU. It was for this stance, amongst others, that she was murdered.

I don’t agree with her name being used by Labour politicians. I think that to use the name of someone that was knifed down by a psychopath for political gain is disingenuous, unless used in a progressive way (as per the Jo Cox Foundation, which is absolutely fabulous). To use it to score points off your opponents is, at best, in bad taste.

That does not, ever, in any conceivable manner, give Boris Johnson the right to tell an MP that has received death threats that her views are “humbug.” It gives him even less right to say that to honour Jo Cox’s death, “Brexit should be delivered.”

She was pro-EU, you vacuum of decency, shrouded under a blonde merkin plucked from the undercarriage of the lady of liberty herself. You absolute degenerate, entitled, feeble, deplorable fuck-wit.

This is why I couldn’t write my blog two nights ago. My fury at the man who holds the highest office in the land holds no bounds.

I, like the Prime Minister, am an Old Etonian. I had every privilege made available to me when I was younger, and I understand what comes of being an Old Etonian, both good and bad.

I understand the anger that is directed towards us, and I understand why. To stand before our democratically-elected Parliament and declare that you know better is, at its core, one of the most fundamentally diabolical things I have ever heard.

By feeling entitled rather than privileged, Boris Johnson has shown a lack of human empathy on a fundamental level. The man is totally, unerringly, deranged.

And more than that: he is unworthy of the highest office of our land.

I write all of the above aware of its hyperbolic nature. I do not say anything lightly, and I respect the views of all who oppose it.

But Boris Johnson can, in no uncertain terms, suck hard, and true, upon my sphincter.

Fuck off Boris, you absolute weapon.

ALL HALE BREAKS LOOSE : Supreme Court UNANIMOUSLY Declares Prorogation Illegal, Null and Void


Wow. Wow, wow, wow.

Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, just announced that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was illegal.

It was also null and void, and “Parliament is not prorogued.”

This was a unanimous verdict of all eleven Supreme Court judges. This, despite them all having differing opinions on politics, the application of the law, and justice.

They all decided that our Prime Minister, our leader, acted illegally.


I Fought The Law And The… Law Won. Hard.

The general predictions about today’s ruling were that it would be hard-fought amongst the eleven justices. The varying opinions would have meant that a compromise ruling would likely have been found (although a unanimous decision was not required).

Pundits across the judicial and political spheres thought that the Supreme Court would likely decide the following:

  • That the prorogation was justiciable (i.e. a legal, not political, matter);
  • That the prorogation was, in this instance, unlawful;
  • But as it was unprecedented territory, the Court would give a verbal slap on the wrist to the Prime Minister and perhaps spell out the law for future rulings.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

The key difference is the third part of the ruling, or the “remedies.” The Supreme Court ruled that the Prime Minister’s actions were unlawful, and that this prorogation, in legal terms, never happened.

Both barrels. Bang. Bang.


Why Was The Ruling So Severe?

Lady Hale, in her address where she announced the ruling, insinuated that the lack of any kind of evidence from Number 10’s office was a key factor in the ruling. In summary, Johnson failed to provide a sworn statement from any staff member within his office that stated that he was telling the truth.

Essentially, Johnson had told everyone, from the Queen to the public, that he was proroguing Parliament for a Queen’s Speech rather than to deny Parliament its ability to scrutinise the government, but had no proof for this. The only proof was to the contrary.

The Supreme Court inferred from this that prorogation was never about a Queen’s Speech, but to prevent Parliamentary scrutiny. The ruling isn’t about Johnson lying to the Queen, but preventing our democratic system from working effectively.

For more details on this, last week’s article explains the details of the case in full, here.

The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling demonstrates the sentiment within the highest judicial court in the land that our constitution needs to be protected against populist, untruthful governments.

And good God, they have laid down the law.


Is This A Good Thing?

Yes. Categorically yes.

Whatever your views on Brexit, Leave or Remain, there is a simple truth at the heart of it.

It cannot happen without it being carried out legally, democratically, and through the proper channels. Yes, the referendum was a rare, direct expression of democracy in a representative system, but the open-ended nature of the answer “Leave” means that it falls to our elected representatives to enact it as they see fit.

While the last few months (/years) have been tortuous, everything has happened in the correct way. It’s been stifling, divisive and infuriating, yet it has been lawful.

Our Prime Minister, egged on by his Machiavellian aide, Dominic Cummings, has tried to break our constitution to carry out the wishes of roughly half of our country’s citizens. The highest court in the land has judged him to have lied to all of us, and bypass democracy, to push through Brexit at all costs.

If nothing else, there is a practical argument here, too – a Brexit that is unlawful is open to legal challenge. If no-deal, or even any kind of Brexit, had happened through unlawful means, it would be challenged again, and again, and again.

It would never end.

Today, one pillar of our constitutional system protected our democracy from manipulation by those who do not respect it. Parliament’s role as a scrutiniser of Government has been safeguarded, and the Supreme Court has made clear that those who wish to run roughshod over our democratically-elected politicians will be stopped.


So… What Now?

Theoretically, and most likely, Parliament returns tomorrow.

Tomorrow is usually PMQs. It is desperately unfortunate that Boris Johnson is currently in the US attending a UN Climate Summit, because that would have been one hell of a PMQs.

It is meant to be Johnson’s prerogative to recall Parliament, but seeing as Parliament isn’t actually suspended anymore, there is nothing to stop MPs from returning tomorrow morning.

What of Johnson? What of Cummings? Both should, by most accounts, resign immediately. But if the Prime Minister resigns or loses a vote of no confidence, does that mean that Parliament is dissolved for a General Election? If that happens, a no-deal Brexit might happen by default (although thanks to the Benn Bill, a chosen representative would probably ask the EU for an extension instead of the Prime Minister).

There is talk of a government of national unity being formed, a cross-party coalition of MPs who will work to solve Brexit before having a General Election, but it’s hard to see how one might be formed, or what it might achieve.

All in all, what comes next is anyone’s guess. But make no mistake – today’s ruling was historic. Shocking, yes, but historic.

And, unless you’re Boris Johnson, a day worth celebrating.

CONTACTS, CONFERENCE AND CONFLICT : PM In New Scandal, Labour Lose Plot

Even the weekends are mad these days.

We enter this week with the real chance of it being Johnson’s worst yet since becoming Prime Minister. Either today or tomorrow, the Supreme Court will make its ruling on his prorogation of Parliament, and whether or not it was legal.

If they rule that it was illegal, the ramifications could be huge. Parliament may have to be recalled, Johnson may call another prorogation, or more legal challenges could be made against him.

Yet even if he wins the legal challenge, another scandal that broke over the weekend could yet fatally damage him.

Also, the scandal might be Johnson’s first about misusing his “Johnson” since becoming Prime Minister!

Sound the “headlines-we-all-knew-were-coming bingo” klaxon.

Also, the Labour Party has been having its conference over the weekend. Here, the plan was that the party would come together, form a unified front, and finally be the Opposition the country needs them to be!

Q: How did that go, I wonder?


A: ABSOLUTELY F*CKING TERRIBLY

What was meant to bring the Labour Party together actually threatened to finally tear it apart over the weekend. Reports emerged late on Friday night that Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the party and prominent People’s Vote campaigner, was to be kicked out.

A senior Corbyn-ally tabled a motion for the position of deputy leader to be disbanded, thereby removing Watson from office. The fears amongst prominent Labour leaders was that should Corbyn resign (which has been lightly-rumoured) then Watson would inherit the leadership by default.

Seeing as Corbyn has been slowly filling the other positions of power around him with far-left, largely Brexit-favouring allies, Watson’s Remainer disposition put him at odds with many of Labour’s head honchos.

Not, however, with everyone in the Labour Party.

Corbyn’s stance on Brexit is to remain impartial to Leave vs. Remain. If, however, Labour were in government, they would negotiate a new deal with the EU then hold a referendum on it : this deal, or Remain.

However, many within the party have already broken rank on this – Emily Thornberry, Sir Keir Starmer and Watson himself have all prominently spoken about their preferences to Remain.

This is directly contravening the party’s leaders – and they are the most vocal of a very large number of moderate Labour MPs. The rifts between the party are getting worse and worse, just in time for a General Election.

Just to compound things further, one of Corbyn’s closest allies, Andrew Fisher, also left the party the previous weekend. Fisher, who helped write the 2017 manifesto for Labour, left with a note criticising the leader’s office and their “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency.”

Ouch.


JOHNSON’S JOHNSON STRIKES AGAIN

In other news, Boris Johnson might have used government funds to help the career of an American businesswoman whose apartment he frequented.

Yep, that’s just another headline that rolls by, these days.

The Sunday Times, who are easily winning the media war for best investigative journalism over recent months, revealed in an article yesterday that Johnson, while London mayor, might have used his position and public money to help promote a “friend” of his.

This friend is Jennifer Arcuri, a former model who is now a tech entrepreneur. The Sunday Times alleges that Johnson personally intervened to allow Arcuri access to international trade missions, give her company sponsorship grants and even win a £100,000 government grant from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

This grant was for UK-based start-up companies. Miss Arcuri left the UK in 2018, but registered the company at a rental house in Cheshire, the Times claims.

If you want to see just how closely Johnson got to Arcuri’s career, have a little gander at this:

Just to add more lighter fluid to the barrel-fire that is this story, it is alleged that Johnson frequently visited Ms. Arcuri’s Shoreditch flat. Far be it for me to speculate on the activities of a convicted serial womaniser, but I doubt that Johnson would have been able to concentrate on any business-oriented meetings there, what with the stripper-pole that is in the centre of the flat.

Look, these kinds of headlines used to kill careers. But these days, in this environment, it’s likely that we’ll forget all about this. I hope we don’t, as if this story is proved true then it means that a politician used public funds, our taxes, to give preferential treatment to a foreign businesswoman.

But, despite everything, I think he’ll survive it. The man has enough puncture wounds to kill a rhino, but he keeps trundling on regardless.

Today could prove to be the day where his chickens come home to roost. And they may roost pretty damn hard. Serious, next-level roosting.

But do not think that the fight is gone out of this Prime Minister yet. With his opposition about to quite literally fall apart and anger against the Lib-Dems’ “Revoke or Bust” policy, he may yet survive.

At what cost, however, remains to be seen.

Weekly Wrap-Up : PANNICK! AT THE DISCO

Since our last article, it’s been a disquietingly calm week. Monday was, yet again, a day of pandemonium and chaos – David Cameron’s memoirs were scathing on Johnson’s political career, and the PM of Luxembourg threw him under a bus.

It was subjectively hilarious / infuriating, and at the very least a pretty dire diplomatic move.

But since then, the mood has calmed, despite the stakes being higher than ever.

We’ve been treated to a smorgasbord of mayhem over the last few weeks. Johnson has the worst voting record of a Prime Minister in living memory, he’s been routinely heckled and lambasted by the public, and our politics is reaching breaking point.

But the last few days have been different. A challenge to our political system, for sure, but something more serene.

While the last few weeks have seen various, nefarious parties kicking the proverbial beehive to see if they get stung, this week has seen the big boys come out to play.

Enter: the judicial system.


What In Christ’s Name Does That Mean

Ok look, the fact of the matter is that you shouldn’t have to know what the judicial system does. I mean, sure, you know that “juries” and “lawyers” and “judges” might sentence you to a million years in prison for that time you bought a train ticket without a Railcard.

Everyone knows that. And they will find you.

And they will punish you.

But what most people don’t know is that that very same system actually prevents our leaders from turning into Joseph Stalin.

The last few days have been excruciatingly exciting for nerds like me. But in order to understand why, you have to understand the British Constitution.

I know that for most of you reading this, you’d probably rather have your phone in a constant state of GPRS than actually learn about the intricacies of British constitutional law.

Luckily for you, I’m very generous. The below is about as basic and top-line as you can get, but explains how our system works.

It is also the first of many new infographics that Between the Lines is commissioning around British politics – please do get in touch with any requests for what to do next.



Ok, But What Does All Of This Mean?

Right, then. Have you been reading closely?

Johnson, Cummings, and the aides at No. 10 are The Executive. Somehow, that is where we’re now at – a full investigation into Cummings is in the pipeline for Between the Lines, and I urge you to read it upon its release.

Watch this space. Anyway.

By proroguing Parliament for the length of time they have suggested (five weeks), at the time they have done it, they have, arguably, denied The Legislature from scrutinising their policies.

Their main policy in this instance, if clarification was needed, is to leave on October 31st, deal, no-deal or bust. The Prime Minister himself has said so, many times.

Allegedly, Boris Johnson prorogued Parliament, denying it the chance to scrutinise his policies. He claimed that this was a perfectly ordinary thing to do, because he was in charge of a new government.

Traditionally, this is largely true – a new government would usually prorogue Parliament for a few days before a Queen’s Speech. At a Queen’s Speech, a new timetable would be announced for passing new laws and creating a new agenda for Parliament to consider.

Not only is this normal, it is a good way to govern – set out a timetable for when you wish to discuss things, allow your opponents an opportunity to scrutinise, and then create the laws that Parliament agrees to.

However, in this instance, Johnson used this power to deny Parliament a say in what is arguably the most divisive issue of our lifetime.

…Allegedly.


Ok, So Boris Used A Power He Had To Silence Parliament… Why Are Lawyers Now Involved?

Because there were two different legal cases run against the government last week. One in England (the Gina Miller one), and one in Scotland.

The English one failed, and the Scottish one (eventually) succeeded. The events at the Supreme Court this week dealt with both – an appeal against the English verdict, and the government trying to overturn the Scottish verdict.

Woof. Still with me? Let’s have a minute to decompress.

Have this stock photo of a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy to do so.

What Has Actually Happened?

According to my partner, who a) passed the bar some years back and b) is far more intelligent than me, it was “a legal ladyboner” to watch the very best judicial minds in the country at work.

Lord Keen, on behalf of Johnson’s government, said that prorogation, by the nature of it being the government’s prerogative, was entirely legal. For judges and lawyers to enter the fray would be, to quote, a “minefield.”

Our three pillars have to exist independently of one another. Lord Keen’s argument was that this would be the Judiciary influencing the Executive, which would breach constitutional law.

Lord Pannick, the exquisitely-named barrister for the defence (brought by Miller), gave a masterclass on constitutional law, and the need for a Supreme Court intervention.

His argument was thus: the Supreme Court exists to enforce the laws of the land, especially those of the constitution – i.e. the laws that define our society. Despite the need for separation of powers, were someone to act against the laws of the constitution, it is the judiciary’s responsibility to act.

Johnson, he argued, was acting unconstitutionally.

What evidence is there for this? Usually in cases like this, the government would be able to provide a witness, who would be legally bound to tell the truth to the court.

No-one within the confines of No. 10 was willing to be a witness, presumably because they were terrified of perjuring themselves (lying in court – a very serious crime).

Additionally, documents were released in the first wave of legal challenges against prorogation that implied that the government was manipulating constitutional law to its own advantage.

A bold, if stupid move, if proved to be true.


So What Happens Now?

Nothing until Monday, at the very earliest.

There are a plethora of different verdicts the Supreme Court could give, but the early warning signs suggest it will be a profoundly bad day for the government.

If the Supreme Court finds Johnson guilty:

  • He might have to bring Parliament back early;
  • He might also refuse to do so;
  • If he does, Parliament will tear the Operation Yellowhammer documents to pieces as he will be forced to debate them in the House of Commons;
  • Whatever happens, he might have to go to prison;
  • No. Seriously. We might have to imprison our own Prime Minister.

It is unlikely. But frankly, so is everything these days.

If nothing else, Johnson has had a succession of appalling Mondays. It would either be fitting, tragic, or hilarious, depending on your views, that this next one might be the worst yet.

We await the ruling of the Supreme Court in anticipation. Whatever its verdict, however, it will be, without hyperbole, historic.

We live in strange times.

Enjoy your weekends!